In many ways, the colon is the body's trash compactor. The 5-foot-long, muscular organ, also called the large intestine, absorbs water from food and readies waste for elimination through a final 6-inch stretch called the rectum. The colon is also the third-most-common site for cancer to take hold.
Like all other tissues, colon cells constantly grow and divide in an orderly fashion to replace old and worn-out-cells. But in some cases, this process veer off track, and cells can multiply even when new ones aren't nec. This unchecked growth most commonly develops into a polyp, a tissue mass attached to the intestinal lining. Once a polyp forms, it often takes several years for these irregular cells to mutate and become cancerous. In its later stages, the cancer can spread to other organs in the body and to the lymph nodes; as a result, colorectal cancer is the second-most-frequent cause of cancer death, after lung cancer.
Fortunately, if caught early on, colorectal cancers are highly treatable with surgergy. For more advanced cancers, chemotherapy is necessary.
Symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, bloody stools, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.